A visit to Wadi Rum desert!

I didn’t know much about Wadi Rum before planning my trip to Jordan having Petra on top of my list, but seeing the pictures and reading about it, to visit become a must.

And like everything we visit, it’s worth it, I will always regret what I haven’t visited and never what I’ve visited.  We’ve seen all the highlights that are in any itinerary list with our local guide Ali, a very friendly, calm individual. We’ve always had the greatest of guides and Ali is not the exception. He told us about his life, his likes and dislikes. Like all local guides in any place we’ve visited, they understand the impact of garbage on their land and their livelihood and he was really attentive on not wasting anything: the fruits – he throw them away for animals to eat, the plastic and cans, he took them with him. We were very appreciative and mentioned that the desert is very clean and he said that yes, they’re trying to keep it clean, he has an uncle in Saudi Arabia that he visits and he saw how a dirty desert look like.

The day was very relaxing, nothing was rushed. When visiting the dunes and trekking the small canyon,take your shoes off, it’s a must to feel the sand.

 

 

One of the experiences I was looking forward to was the under the stars tent and it did not disappoint.  It is worth the experience only for seeing the stars from your bed: we’ve seen 2 falling stars and stayed awake for as long as we could just to watch the sky.

 

I wasn’t too impressed by the inside but it is indeed a luxury to have all the modern comfort in the desert. On the other hand,  I couldn’t stop myself feeling guilty – to keep the tents up, there was air being pumped  all the time and one can’t ignore the noise at night even with all the excitement.

The dinner was very tasty and the fire place serving tea and shisha had a very laid back atmosphere, I was delighted. The wood they use for the fire releases a very warm smell ; from reading Marguerite’s book – Married with a  Bedouin, I’m guessing it’s juniper wood. It’s a smell that probably got imprinted in my olfactory memory and there will be a time when smelling  it again will bring back the lost time,  just like Proust’s “madeleine moment”.

 

 

Advertisements

Visit Petra the right way: 10 bang-on suggestions!

I’ve just returned from a 7 day holiday in Jordan and I’m very excited to share a few tips on how to make the most of your time in Petra.

Have your first glance of the Monastery and the Treasury from above

We bought our tickets and asked for  a driver from Visitor Center to take us to the so called “backdoor” entrance. The drive cost us – 15 JOD the taxi and another 5 JOD with a local on his jeep – the first driver didn’t want to ruin his car on the rocky road. We’ve probably paid a lot for just 5 min drive on the road and another 5 with the jeep but the flooding the previous days made us a bit worried about venturing outside the main trails for too long and the people at the Visitor center won’t help you much if you don’t want to pay for a guided tour – there are no maps and unless you do your planning beforehand (maybe create your own map to recognize the villages names) it’s very easy to get confused.

The trek to the Monastery:

We’ve got to the entrance, had our tickets checked, asked to be pointed to the right direction and started walking. You’re basically in a very rocky area with no signs, there is a path visible  only at times. After walking 20 minutes you get to a viewpoint and you’ll notice the stairs – from there, following the steps up and down for around 40 min gets you to the Monastery. The views are fantastic and so are the colors of the rocks – get used to it!

poza petra 1
The trek from back door entrance to Monastery

When you start seeing more people around – you know you’re close – follow the path  and the first glance at the Monastery will be from above. This is what I’ve been dreaming about and it was worth all the effort so it was time to have a break overlooking the majestic place.

 

As we went in front of the monastery we’ve noticed many cafes but didn’t stop, we had so much more to see.  Followed the stairs down – it took probably 30-45  mins to get to the valley where  Qasr Al Bint – the temple dedicated to  Dushara  and the Great Temple are located. Everywhere you look, there is something happening – there are shops, locals offering donkey rides to carry tourists up and down the stairs, it smells of fire and incense when you pass over the shops where locals are preparing tea. As you arrive into the valley, you start seeing camels, ready for a ride towards the tombs and in retrospect, that would have been an amazing experience – this Bedouins know their business.

poza petra 4

The view from the ancient columns of the Great Temple towards the royal tombs was splendid, it was around 15:00 and the colors of the rock were magnificent – for me, this is the best view in Petra.

poza petra 3
My favorite view of Petra, this is getting on my wall

The trek to the Treasury:

We’ve decided to get closer to the tombs and to adventure on the trail that takes to the panoramic view of the Treasury.  From this path we could see the entire  valley – on one side the Temples, the tombs scattered on every rock and the Theatre and on the other side Wadi Musa town.

poza-petra-5.jpg

I really wanted to see the treasury from the Bedouin tent so we’ve continued our trek thinking it can’t be too far away. We were conscious that the site closes at 17:00 during winter time but certain for some reason that there is a another path to takes us down to the Siq.

We’ve got there after 20 minutes – there is no path – only rocks everywhere you look. We had a drink at the Bedouin place and enjoyed the Treasury view from above. I was really thrilled that we’ve managed to have our first view from above, even though the light and colors of the rocks are not so good in the evening.

poza petra 6.jpg

Very soon it was time to leave this beautiful place. As we came out of the tent at 16:40, there were no signs and no other paths so we had to go back the way we came, taking us around an hour to get back to the visitor center without any stops. It was all worth it to have the site all by yourself – there were no locals left, no shops open and more importantly, almost no tourists ( we left behind a group of 4 adults and around 7 children of all ages that I’ve been admiring for their courage and lifestyle ever since and probably will remain in my memory forever; and there was another guy that was in front of us trying to exist as soon as possible).

My partner already panicked, he had read that we should not remain on the site outside opening hours and he was determined to get out as fast as possible but I was really pleased – this is one of the best things that could have happen – everything was so peaceful, the moon was over the Royal  Tombs lightning our path until we entered the Siq.

Once out, and with no one questioning us, we’ve started laughing thinking that in less than 2 hours we will be back for Petra by night.

Yes, you should do Petra by night! 

Should I do Petra by night? Is it worth it?  Walking in silence through the Siq, expecting to see the Treasury after every corner and finally arriving, marveling at all the lights showing just enough of the beauty of the Treasury, taking a seat and serving hot tea, waiting for the music to begin while trying to be mindful of the entire experience… yes, it was worth it.

What would I have done instead? Stay in the hotel to relax? Well, I’ll have time to relax when I get back to Aqaba.

 

 

Adventure on the Siq  as early as possible!

Second day we’ve done the usual route, I did want to get there as early as possible but we were too tired and when travelling in 2 you do make concessions. We’ve managed to start the route to the Treasury at 8:15 and it was already full of tourists  and I was so happy I’ve managed to enjoy the site the way we did the previous day. But walking the Siq in the morning towards the Treasury it’s unforgettable and anyone should have this experience.

The light makes the rocks look so pretty and it’s exciting to walk the narrow corridor remembering that you’ve been there 3 times but all was in dark. Also, all the movement, the locals and donkeys and horse drawn- buggy ads to the experience, giving you an idea on how it must have been a long time ago on the time of the caravans.

We’ve enjoyed seeing the Treasury as we’ve got out of the Siq but it was full of tourists trying to get pictures and locals trying to make a living. It was less crowded when we got back and managed to take some good pictures.

The high place of sacrifice trail it’s a must!

We’ve moved on and started the High Place of Sacrifice trek, I think it was the best trek , so please, take your time and go up the stairs, you won’t regret it.

The views as you go higher:

 

Don’t get scared by the stairs to the High Place of Sacrifice, the path to the top is very exciting – it was meant to be a procession route so the Nabateans created interesting elements for people to stop, enjoy and reflect on their way to the top.

CD44DE58-6727-49E1-B792-796AB25A3BDE

Around 12:00 we were having tea at the view-point – the sun has just started to touch the Royal Tombs opposite us.

 

Have tea at one of the Bedouins tents 

For those concerned about hygiene, have a Coke but do stop and relax. The Bedouins know the best views and you should stop for some time and  relax taking within you these amazing places and create memories that last a lifetime.

5746C492-34AE-46C6-B8A0-A61E8A8DAF53

2E2FFDAE-D10D-43F1-AA4C-35E554937D44

 

Learn about the Bedouins society from a westerner

Once back on the main trail, we stopped for a pomegranate juice at one of the cafes overlooking the royal tombs – by far the most expensive drink in Jordan – 4 JOD a juice but it was fresh and refreshing.  At this point I was more than happy with the time spent in Petra, I’ve taken enough mental pictures to make me happy when remembering our travel experience.

But there was one more thing – I have come across a book,“ Married with a Bedouin” written by a New Zealand lady about her life in Petra with her Bedouin husband. She’s still living in Wadi Musa and has a stall selling her book and jewelries in Petra so it was a no brainer that I shall buy the book from her and read it on my remaining lazy days in Aqaba.

For more details please visit  her site – http://www.marriedtoabedouin.com/. It’s so nice reading about the places you’ve just visited in the book.

8BB6CE23-AC86-4667-B157-49B133CDFBD7

Visit at least for 2 days!

Is Petra the reason you’ve chosen to visit Jordan? If the answer is yes, then you must  visit at least 2 days.

I plan my travel based on places that I read about, a film or an amazing photo that impresses me. In this case, the initial reason to visit Jordan was Petra, so it was only fair to give it enough time and thought so we planned 2 days. Looking back now, I would have enjoyed an extra day, there were a few places that I’ve missed and some places that I would have liked to revisit not to mention that there are so many trekking opportunities outside the main trails. That’s me, but my partner for example was quite happy with 2 days.

Choose a hotel close to the entrance! 

We left Wadi Rum for  Petra and in around 1h and 30 min we arrived to Wadi Musa. The city is larger than I expected and it’s basically linked to the Visitor Center so access and safety shouldn’t be a  problem. wadi musa hotel location

However, a location close to the entrance can make your life much easier – from Visitor Center to the Treasury is a 45 minutes walk, it’s very exciting when going in, but a bit of a pain after an entire day trekking.  When I checked the map before booking our accommodation,  I thought that Movenpick is the closest and cutest, it is close but it’s not the only one and it’s not that cute to deserve the premium rates.  If you want to spoil yourself better choose Petra Guest House, it looked like  an Arabian dream and it was inside Petra.

We’ve chosen to stay in  “La Maison” and it was all we needed, clean and good location, less than 5 min to the Visitor Center and with a supermarket with good prices.

There is a mosque near Movenpick hotel so be prepared to be awaken at 5 AM  by the calls to prayer. I wasn’t bothered at all since I wanted to wake up as early as possible but you might want to bring some year plugs.

Avoid the heat!

The weather cannot be controlled so don’t stress too much about it, you’re there for the fun of travelling so embrace it. But be smart about it, if you don’t like heat, don’t visit in August and if you don’t want to be too cold,  don’t visit in January.

We’ve visited second week of November and the weather was great – it was sunny but not too hot so we could go up and down on the different hills and treks without being bothered by the heat.  However, on the day we had our flight( 4 days before we visited), there was flooding in Petra causing the evacuation of around 3000 visitors and the  site closure for the following day. Given the circumstances, we were quite lucky to have no rain and excellent temperature, even for Petra by night. But flooding, though a possibility,  should be an exception and I think November is quite a good month for trekking in Petra.

Just for reference, the maximum during the day was around 16- 18  degrees but very enjoyable for trekking – several times during our trek we’ve been very appreciative  of the lovely weather.

Plan your visit!

Everyone is different and has their own objectives on holidays. In my case, I’m driven by my passion of history, love of trekking and desire to enrich my life with fabulous experiences.

Learn about the Nabateans as much as you can – you’ll than be able to spot different elements during your trek and understand what you’re visiting. I always learn about the different places that we visit and while visiting, I tell my partner the different facts that I’ve learnt about. He loves it!

Besides understanding the place, prepare for what you’re going to do. I’ve read a lot about trekking in Petra on the internet, watched several you tube videos and read a guide-book from the library, and finally decided my route:  the back door  entry with Jabhal al- Khubtha on the first day represented in yellow and main trail with High place of Sacrifice represented in blue.

Harta 2
Day one in yellow and second day in blue

Very successful 24 hours in London : Florence and the machines, Bohemian Rhapsody and Cate Blanchett

I’ve always wanted to go to a concert in the O2 arena but somehow I never managed to, it was either bad timing or tickets unavailability.

But my time has come and in summer I’ve got tickets for Florence and the machines and going to her concert has a very personal significance. The story starts the first few days I moved with my partner in UK that coincided with Reading festival. The entire town was full of festival goers and I could hear, very fainted, the music at night from our temporary apartment.  This caught my attention and watched the live show on tv to discover Florence and the machines  and in that moment, I knew I’ll be at the festival the following year and that one day I’d like to go to Florence and the machines concert.

And here I am, years later, finally ticking another experience on my bucket list, in fact 2 – a concert at O2 arena and Florence and the machines live.

The concert was really good, I did not expect Florence to be so spiritual and shy. I was amused by her way of talking and her speech voice in such contrast with her powerful singing. I knew the concert will be great  but her connection with the public, her profoundness and sincerity really touched me. It came at a time when I’m trying to reconnect with my yearning so it is a bit refreshing to see someone really famous being so deep.

C53D5BC2-9C90-4B8F-8529-FAC8F68F6ECE

I left O2 arena impressed and happy and already planning for the next concert.

The next day after work I wasn’t sure what to do so we had some food at our to go restaurant chain -wagamama- and decided to do what all tourists do in December, have a look at the Christmas lights.

It’s always interesting to have a walk in London, as a regular visitor in the company of someone who doesn’t like crowds,  I visit  Southbank a lot and this time I discovered  jimmy’s igloos- they’ve reminded me of the wadi rum under the stars tent we’ve recently stayed in.

BCB9D6CB-5C71-4165-A05E-47F57060AF2E
https://jimmyslodge.com

This is indeed a very nice place to have dinner if you manage to gather a group of 9 (definitely not my case) . Anyway, next time I’m in London I will check out the bar, it looked very cosy and they serve mulled wine even though the food menu was a bit of a disappointment for a vegan wannabe like myself.

And I know the exact occasion  I’ll be back in London, believe it or not, Cate Blanchett will play at National Theatre in january and I’m definetely trying to get tickets. But it’s all about luck, in order to be fair and give all a chance there is a ballot everyone interested must enter and if you’re one of the winners you can buy tickets. It’s all about chance but since I discovered this gem only because I happened to be in London looking for something interesting to do, I take it as a sign.

We’ve crossed the Thames river on our way to the christmas lights, this year we’ve skipped the Covent garden ones and decided to go to Carnaby street. And I’m so glad we did, the lights are the first world ever Qeens inspired and it’s celebrating the release of Bohemian Rhapsody movie this october.

 

The visit ended after a tea at one of the cafes and some browsing in the shops, it was black friday and as usual, I’m tempted to buy but I never find something to be worth all the fuss. However, I did manage to find a few coats that I liked and made a mental note of the shops since I’m now trying a sustainable approach to shopping and I’m in the middle of what I call  the coat experiment. But that’s a story for another time, for now I just feel re-energized and happy.

7F6C598E-1847-45FE-BBB7-EF3C63C9083F

 

Would you give up a burger for 3 kg of bread, 7 square meters of forest, 100 showers and 40 km drive allowance?

It’s the month vegans celebrate their choices and try to raise awareness. I’m not yet a vegan, I find it difficult to completely transition to a vegan lifestyle but it’s been a long time knowing that meat is a cause for diseases and destruction and ignoring the signs it’s not an option for me any more.  The aim is to try to live a cleaner life that works for me, I’m still experiencing and doing research because information is key in taking a decision.

Did you ever hear of opportunity cost? Opportunity cost is the benefits an individual, investor or business misses out on when choosing one alternative over another.

In our fast – paced lives and with cheap food availability, the consumers rational would be: the price of a burger can be as little as 2£ so what can I get from this amount of  money to keep me from going hungry and on the same time give me a  similar  level of satisfaction. This is as far as our cost of opportunity goes: what can I buy at the same price and have  same satisfaction and the response in most cases is: not much.

In a recent post I’ve shared the true cost of 1 burger   but I’d like to take this a bit further and look at the opportunity cost for the planet and consider that in reality I’m choosing between eating a burger and saving the resources that go into that burger.

                                 Knowing the cost of 1 burger, what will you choose? 

 

burger v2 signed

 

7 square meters of land

So much land is used to raise cattle and don’t imagine it’s the space needed for the animals, it’s also the land used to grow crops for feeding them . With growing appetite for meat and a growing population we need more and more land to fulfill our desires.  The only way to increase the meat production is to use more land and the extra land comes from deforestation – we’re destroying animals habitats and the trees that are oxygenating the planet.

I’ve recently visited the Peruan Amazon  and took a trip to lake Sandoval,  the sound of the forest is amazing and knowing that  places like this are endangered by deforestation makes me sad and wanting to do something.

                                          Think forest, oxygen, animals and plants.

amazon

2 kg of grains

We could use these grains to feed people. They could survive and live a healthy life on a plant-based diet but instead we use limited resources to raise cattle for meat to feed the advantaged few.

                                                                         Think Hunger

Think Hunger                      http://www.foodaidfoundation.org/world-hunger-statistics.html

3000 L of water

These quantity amounts for the drinking water of one person for 8 years or 100 showers. You do the math, how long will 100 showers last you? Maybe a month, 2 months?

One very common advice that we get to reduce our water usage is to take short showers or to turn off the tap when we brush our tooth. These are good advises and I try to follow them but skiping that burger for dinner would save much more water.

                                                                    Think Thirst

Think Water                                          https://water.org/our-impact/water-crisis/

6,7 kg of CO emissions

The number might not mean much to you, it certainly didn’t ring any bell to me before I’ve done some comparison. There are  various calculators on-line and statistics to understand the true scale of the emissions. Depending on your car efficiency, it can mean 40 km to 80 km maybe more or it can mean flying 23 km.

                                                               Think summer vacation

Eating 2 burgers per week for a year has same emissions as a flight from London to Malaga, Spain. If you can only  have one, what would you do?

Flight emissions          https://co2.myclimate.org/en/portfolios?calculation_id=1357227

My choice 

The impact on our planet really started to matter a lot to me because it’s getting personal: I love traveling but I won’t be able to see the beauty of the Earth if we destroy it. The way I feel is that  I’d rather give up meat than give up travelling. 

No, it’s not the edamame it’s the burger!

We all know the human kind is destroying the planet and yet each one of us continues to live as if it’s not us who should take action. It is because we hide behind the crowds and think there isn’t much we can do as an individual – we wait for policymakers to guide us.

What would you do if you knew that by not eating a single burger you’d reduce deforestation, emissions and water waste, that by having a plant- based diet is as you’d go car-free. The impact of meat we eat is that high so ultimately it’s up to us as individuals to stay informed and make the right choices.

The livestock industry has a devastating impact on the planet. Just yesterday I’ve seen on the news that the Cerrado- the Brazilian Savannah is being destroyed together with species of plans and animals. My husband asked – is that because we eat edamame? No darling, it’s the burgers we eat – it’s the soy for livestock to produce meat, milk and eggs.

A recent study* showed that if entire population were to switch to a plant based diet the benefits for the planet would be worth:

 Impact Total plan based diet
Total Land use Reduced by 75%
Arable land only Reduced by 19%
Co2 emissions Reduced by 49%
Fresh water withdrawals Reduced between 5-32%

*Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers Authors: J. Poore1,2*, T. Nemecek3

https://josephpoore.com/Science%20360%206392%20987%20-%20Accepted%20Manuscript.pdf

History of Petra

Petra is an ancient city located in Jordan.

It was build and reached its heights under the Nabateans, was ruled by Romans for 200 years and then abandoned by foreign powers and only known by local Bedouins, only to be rediscovered in 1812 by an western adventurer.

Petra flourished due to its location – at the cross roads between Egypt and Mesopotamia.

 

History of PetraDuring biblical era, Petra was under Israelites rules and after their kingdom collapsed Petra passed from Assyrian to Babylonian to Persian hands.

The Nabateans

The first mention of Nabateans was in 647 BC – a tribe of Bedouin nomads that migrated out of the Arabian desert to the lusher and more temperate mountains of  Edom. Since the hills above Petra were occupied by Edomites, the Nabateans moved into the valley floor. At first they would raid the plentiful caravans passing through but soon moved to charging the merchants for safe passage and a place to do business.

Growth of Nabatean power: Over the following 2 centuries, the battling between Syria and Egypt for control of Alexander’s empire enabled the Nabateans to fill the power vacuum in the region and extend their kingdom far beyond Petra. By 80 BC they controlled Damascus.

Source: http://nabataea.net/trader.html

Petra grew ever more wealthy on its profits from trade standing between Egypt, Arabia and Syria, and between East Asia and Mediterranean. Nabatean power seemed limitless when Pompey sent troops against Petra in 62 BC, the Nabateans were able to buy peace from roman empire and continue its trade.

But the times have changed the trade patterns in favor of transport by sea. In addition, Romans were diverting inland trade through Palmyra in Syria.

In 105 AD the entire Nabatean kingdom passed peacefully into roman hands becoming a principal center in the new Provincia Arabia.

By 300 AD, with sea trade into Egypt well established and Palmyra raising in importance as an oasis in the eastern Syrian desert, Roman patronage began to drift away from the city and money followed.

By the time of Islamic Invasion around 700 AD, Petra was more or less deserted. 

Around 1200 AD, the Crusaders had tiny outposts in Petra and as far as records show, the last person other than the locals Bedouins to see Petra for over 500 years was Mamluke sultan Baybars in 1276 in his way from Cairo to suppress a revolt in Karak.

On August 22, 1812 Swiss explorer  Jean Louis Burckhardt entered the Siq in heavy Arab disguise in the company of a local guide.

Jordan- what to visit in 7 days!

I came across Jordan as a travel destination a few years ago when a friend of mine visited Petra. I’ve checked it out and it was immediately on my bucket list.

And now I’m finally going to visit this magical country that I’m sure it will enchant all my senses.

My trip will be in 2 weeks time, I’ve done the high level planning but now I’m starting with the details: what to eat, what to wear, must do tips.

My expectations are high, I’m always very excited when I go somewhere very different from anything I’ve seen before. The closest should be Turkey and that was more than 10 years ago so I’m looking forward to access the middle eastern culture.

Only one quick look at the map and the adrenaline raises. You hear about these countries mostly on conflict related news or you read about them in history books and in the bible. However for me it’s exciting and I’m hoping that this experience will make me smarter, more open minded and it will be the start of my many visits in the area.

Thanks to new EasyJet flights from London directly to Aqaba, Jordan I can have my winter sun vacation but also see the amazing Wadi Rum and Petra.

Dates: 10 – 17th November 2018

The itinerary:

7 days are not enough not even to visit the top attractions. This great Jordan is. I’ve decided to concentrate on Petra, Wadi Rum and a few days at 2 Red Sea resorts in Tala Bay and Aqaba city.

poza 2

 

I’m leaving aside the Dead sea, Amman, Jerash, Al-Maghtas, Wadi-Mijib with the idea already in my mind to be back to this country.

More about Jordan when I come back!